It’s tempting to think of International Women’s Day as a milestone for women, a chance to see what we’ve achieved in the past year and the path ahead.
But ask our keynote IWD’s speaker Celeste Liddle what she hopes women and feminists to achieve in the next year and the answer is as important as it is different: “I’m not sure that I want them to achieve anything”.
Instead, Celeste wants “the focus to shift. I think that the currently popular dialogues of choice and individual empowerment ignore the privilege that is required to access these things.”
This is a more complex and nuanced form of feminism that requires understanding where we sit within the world, how it operates and that equality is for all, not just our own personal experience.
Central to Celeste’s work is the belief in raising voices to raise representation and understanding, making her the obvious choice to lead our International Women’s Day celebration with her keynote speech on March 8.
Celeste’s speech will focus on her “journey as an Indigenous feminist and those who influenced me along the way”. It’s the navigation between being indigenous and a woman that has defined her activism: “I see both as being a fight to decolonise – land, body, space, stories and pretty much everything. Therein lies the key to liberation.”
The celebrated activist and writer believes this can be seen particularly with Indigenous women, who “are continually sidelined in a society which preferences the life experiences of white wealthy men”.
It shows the need for intersectionality (when competing prejudices can alter how different people are treated) because “white women get slightly more platform because they have the privilege of race and so do black men who have the privilege of gender in the existing system”, says Celeste. “Meanwhile, black women are expected to bear the brunt of it all and continue carrying on”.
Even when indigenous women are discussed, Celeste believes “this dialogue continually focuses on what we do for other people and how we hold it together for them. It is expected that women will keep family and community together, that we will be the ‘backbone’, while sacrificing our needs.”
Celeste says, “people use the term “intersectionality” to describe what I am talking about, but for me, without a movement concentrating on liberating those who are most socially disadvantaged due to the intersection of class, gender, race, sexuality, ability [and other issues], it only ends up reinforcing the same power structures”.
While trying to shine a brighter, wider light on feminism and representation, Celeste believes the internet is truly aiding feminism. “I think that a reinvigoration of discussions of systems of oppression needs to happen and now, more than ever before, we have the unfettered space to do this in thanks to the internet”, she says.
She disagrees with criticism the internet is all talk and no action. “We are seeing online discussions force the hand of politicians more than ever before, and we are seeing the media being challenged continually by dialogues it cannot shape or control. So I want to see feminists continue to grow in this space, and to continue to carve out these autonomous spaces.”
One thing is for certain – she’s going to give one hell of a talk.
Be sure to check out Celeste Liddle's blog and like/follow her on social media!
This talk was recorded by Progressive Podcast Australia: http://progressivepodcastaustralia.com/